KITCHENER -- Health officials are encouraging more people to make use of the COVID-19 testing facilities in Waterloo Region, but with public health guidance changing daily, it can be difficult to know what to do.

Testing in Waterloo Region was originally prioritized for certain high-risk groups like health-care workers and people at long-term care and retirement homes.

But earlier this month, public health officials announced they had opened up testing to include anyone with symptoms.

The decision came after daily testing numbers in Ontario continued to lag well below the province's goal of 16,000, last week dipping as low as 5,813.

Over the weekend, Premier Doug Ford said that, if you feel you've been exposed to COVID-19 and want a test, you will get one.

"Please, go get a test. You will not be turned away. You don't need an appointment. Just show up to a testing centre and they will test you," Ford said at his daily news conference on Sunday.

So how do you get tested in Waterloo Region?

Self-assess or speak to your doctor

Region of Waterloo Public Health encourages people to use its online self-assessment tool before going to an assessment centre.

The tool can also connect you to a primary care provider.

After you've used the assessment tool, you may be referred for an in-person assessment or testing.

"The most important shared message is that if you are concerned you may have COVID-19 or have been exposed, please come to be assessed and tested," says St. Mary's General Hospital President Lee Fairclough in a tweet on Monday morning.

"No referral required, easy to access."

Scheduling an appointment

Despite Premier Ford's suggestion on the weekend, local public health officials are asking people to schedule an appointment to prevent people gathering as they wait in line or in waiting rooms.

"We have increased staffing today to support more testing," Cambridge Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Gaskin said in a tweet on Monday.

Here's information on each of the testing and assessment centres listed on the region's website.

Cambridge-North Dumfries Community Assessment and Testing Centre

  • 700 Coronation Blvd., Cambridge (Cambridge Memorial Hospital)
  • Open 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays
  • Self-referrals: 519-621-2333 ext. 2689
  • Not accessible for individuals with mobility issues

Grand River Hospital COVID-19 Testing Centre

  • 835 King St. W., Kitchener
  • Open 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. all week
  • Self-referrals: 519-749-4300 ext. 6824

St. Mary's General Hospital COVID-19 Testing Centre

  • 11-50 Bathurst Dr., Waterloo
  • Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week
  • Self-referrals: 519-885-9517

Kitchener-Waterloo-Wilmot-Wellesley-Woolwich (KW4) Community Assessment Centre

  • 50 Westmount Rd. N., Waterloo
  • Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. all week
  • Self-referrals: 1-855-414-2255

Get tested

Once you go to one of the assessment centres, you will get tested.

According to Public Health Ontario, most recommended testing methods are either by nasopharyngeal swab or a deep nasal or throat swab.

COVID-19 test

Those tests are then sent around Ontario for processing. Most lab work is done in Hamilton, London and Toronto.

The province says that standard turnaround time for test results is about four days.

Waterloo Region health officials have acknowledged that time does not include travel time between testing centres and labs, and can sometimes be higher.

If you believe you may have COVID-19, public health officials recommend that you self-isolate for 14 days.

All residents of Waterloo Region should take public health guidelines seriously, praciticing physical distancing, washing their hands and avoiding touching their faces.

Gatherings of more than five people are not currently permitted in Ontario.